Efforts to create nanoparticles that deliver anticancer drugs or imaging agents to tumors while avoiding healthy cells are often stymied by a lack of known tumor targets, that is, molecules found on the surface of malignant cells but not healthy cells.
While researchers continue to search for such tumor-specific markers, an international team of investigators has found a way of creating peptide-based targeting agents that do not require knowing in advance what the target is. This technique could have a profound, positive impact on the development of targeted nanoparticles for cancer imaging and treatment.
Reporting its work in the journal Molecular Cancer Research, a research team headed by Byung-Heon Lee, Ph.D., of the Kyungpook National University in Daegu, Korea, and Erkki Ruoslahti, M.D., Ph.D., of the Burnham Institute for Medical Research and a member of the Center of Nanotechnology for Treatment, Understanding, and Monitoring of Cancer CCNE, described its use of a technique known as phage display to create a large library of random peptides. They then screened these peptides to see if any were capable of binding to primary human bladder tumors, identifying six potential targeting agents. Of these six peptides, one nine-amino-acid peptide bound to bladder tumor tissue but not to healthy bladder tissue.